OTTUMWA — After five years of chasing an Iowa High School state softball championship together, Jena Lawrence and Alex Beard finally accomplished the dream together two weeks ago.
The senior batterymates joined Centerville junior Claire Mathews as three of the 22 players that were named to the first team of the Iowa Girls Coaches’ Association Class 3A All-State team. Lawrence, Beard and Mathews were half of the six area softball players to earn first-team all-state honors this summer.
Ottumwa senior Kacy Nickerson returns to the Class 5A all-state first team for the second straight year after leading the Bulldogs on the pitching circle and at the plate, helping the Bulldogs finish 15-9 with wins over state qualifiers Waukee and Fort Dodge.
Fairfield senior pitcher Allison Rebling joined Nickerson and Lawrence as area aces to earn first-team all-state honors. Rebling was named to the Class 4A first team after guiding the Trojans to a 24-2 record, including a 22-game winning streak that carried Fairfield to a state tournament berth.
Van Buren County junior Chelsey Huff secured a spot on the Class 2A first-team all-state team. Five of the area players to earn first-team all-state honors spent time in the pitching circle with Huff, Nickerson, Rebling, Lawrence and Mathews combining to throw 427 2/3 innings over 66 starts and 72 pitching appearances, striking out 496 batters and racking up a combined 47-18 record.
Lawrence finished her high school career with an incredible senior season for the Lady Dees, finishing with a state-best 20-0 record, earning her 100th career win in the process, with a 0.91 ERA and 182 strikeouts. Lawrence also led Albia at the plate, finishing a team-best .426 batting average on 29 hits while driving in a team-high 20 runs, including the final run of the season on a solo home run that lifted the Lady Dees to a 1-0 win over Williamsburg in the Class 3A state championship game.
Beard joined Lawrence in making a return to the Class 3A all-state first team. Albia’s all-time top home run hitter finished with four more round-trippers this summer and posted a team-best .614 slugging percentage, starting all 23 games behind the plate for the Lady Dees while finishing with 26 hits, five doubles, a .371 batting average, a .430 on-base percentage and 16 runs driven in.
Albia junior Danica Workman earned third-team all-state honors this season, joining Lawrence and Beard as first-team All-South Central Conference honorees. Workman had 25 hits in 23 games while scoring 17 runs and producing a career-high .403 batting average, a .422 on-base percentage, a .532 slugging percentage and a place with Lawrence, Beard and Lauren Bayer on the Class 3A All-State Tournament team.
Mathews finished with first-team all-state and all-conference honors for Centerville, leading the Redettes with three home runs and a .667 slugging percentage at the plate. Besides playing third base in 12 of Centerville’s 21 games, Mathews stepped in late in the season as the primary starting pitcher for the Redettes going 5-4 while pitching 55 innings over nine apperances.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont teammates Madysen Wade and Emalee Davis were both selected to the Class 3A IGCA All-State third-team. Davis, a first-team all-conference first baseman, led the SCC with 37 hits, 23 runs and matched Beard with a conference-best four home runs while Wade collected 25 hits, scored 19 runs, batted .321 and had nine stolen bases for the Rockets.
Davis County sophomore shortstop Briley Lough also was selected to the All-SCC first team. Lough led the Mustangs to a winning 10-8 record with a team-best 22 hits, six doubles, three home runs, a .684 slugging percentage and 19 runs driven in.
Nickerson finished a stellar career as a five-year varsity pitcher for the 15-9 Bulldogs, serving as the team’s ace each of the past four years. The future Minnesota State Maverick won six games and produced a conference-best 1.88 ERA in the pitching circle, throwing 16 consecutive scoreless innings in July, while leading OHS at the plate with 40 hits and 50 total bases.
Kaylee Bix earned third-team all-state honors in Class 5A by the IGCA to close out her prep career at Ottumwa. The future Indian Hills Warrior led OHS by driving in 20 runs while matching teammate Hannah Huisinga with eight doubles this season.
Rebling, meanwhile, secured a first-team honor in Class 4A with a stellar season in the pitching circle. The Trojan senior struck out 158 batters over 103.1 innings, going 13-2 with three saves and a 1.22 ERA while leading Fairfield to regional and Southeast Conference titles.
Rebling joined Trojan teammates Hannah Simpson, Shay Drish and Coty Engle as first-team all-conference honorees. Fairfield’s only losses were to eventual 3A state champion Albia, 1-0 in the third game of the season, and a 7-5 setback at state to Dallas Center-Grimes in a game the Trojans were a hit away from tying or taking the lead in each of the final three innings.
Engle joined Simpson in earning Class 4A second-team all-state honors. Engle was the team’s top hitter 38 hits, nine doubles, a .543 batting average, a .676 on-base percentage and a .671 slugging percentage while Simpson led Fairfield by driving in 35 runs with 35 hits, a .432 batting average, a .549 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage.
Huff was one of four players to be unanimously selected to the Southeast Iowa Superconference’s first team in the south division after leading the Warriors with 30 hits, a .566 batting average and a .574 on-base percentage. Huff split her time playing first base and pitching, making nine starts and 10 appearances in the pitching circle with 53 strikeouts and a 2.62 ERA over 53.1 innings.
Lexi Jirak earned second-team all-state honors in 2A while joining Huff, Isabel Manning and Ally Campbell as first-team all-conference selections for the Warriors. Jirak set the school record for stolen bases with 11 steals this season and hammered her second game-winning home run in postseason play with a tiebreaking seventh-inning solo homer in a 4-3 regional first round win at Cardinal.
Cardinal junior Alexia McClure, who threw out two runners at home plate in that postseason game with Van Buren County, also earned first-team all-conference honors for the Comets. Pekin senior Emilee Linder joining junior teammates Hannah Lucas and Alli Bainbridge as first-team all-conference honors for the Panthers in the SEISC’s north division.
Sigourney senior shortstop Megan Stuhr earned second-team all-state honors in Class 1A after powering the Savages in 20 games this season. The unanimous first-team all-South Iowa Cedar League selection posted the second-best slugging percentage in Class 1A (1.082) while collecting 36 hits, six home runs, 32 RBIs, 34 runs scored, a .590 batting average and a .649 on-base percentage.
Moravia junior Mikayla Fritz earned Class 1A third-team all-state honors from the IGCA. Fritz led the Mohawks with 18 runs, hit both home runs for the team and posted a team-leading .825 slugging percentage.